If you are behind on any of your debts, you know that once the collections calls start, they don’t stop. Credit card companies, banks, and other lenders have a right to try to collect the money they are owed. But how much is too much when debt collectors come calling?
State and Federal Consumer Protection Laws Put Limits on Debt Collectors
Owing money doesn’t mean you should be harassed by debt collectors. The Federal Fair Debt Collections Practices and Michigan Collection Practices Act (FDCPA and MCPA respectively) are designed to protect consumers from collections companies’ high-pressure tactics and abusive and unfair behavior. If you are being hounded by debt collectors, you need to know your rights:
- To be free from verbal abuse, derogatory language, slurs, or profanity
- To not be threatened
- To be free from repeated calls on the same account
- To an uninterrupted night between 9:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m.
- To know what the debt collector is saying about your account is true
- To stop the calls by notifying the collections company in writing
- To control who knows about your debts and not have creditors call your work or third parties
- To protect your employment by notifying collections companies if your job does not allow personal calls
- To hire an attorney to talk to debt collectors on your behalf
How Much is Too Much?
Some of these rights are straight forward. But other complaints under the MCPA are more vague. How many calls are too many? How do you know when a creditor is threatening illegal activity? And when do their tactics cross the line from aggression to abuse?
Unfortunately, there is no magic number of calls that will trigger protections under state and federal consumer protection laws. However, there are some behaviors that are red flags for you and for judges, including when debt collectors:
- Threaten physical violence
- Use slurs or profanity
- Make repeated call attempts within short periods of time
- Say they are from the government
- Threaten that you could go to jail or “debtors’ prison”
- Claim to be from a credit reporting company
- Send you fake legal forms or documents that look like they are from a court or government agency
- Lie about suing you
- Say they will seize your wages or property if they can’t legally do so
- Claim to be anyone they are not
- Try to collect more than they are owed
- Refuse to provide their real name, company name, phone number, or mailing address
What to Do When Debt Collectors Go Too Far
Licensed debt collection companies know the rules, but that doesn’t mean they will follow them. Collections companies are counting on the fact that you won’t know or exercise your rights so they can keep using illegal collections practices. So what can you do when you think they have gone too far?
Start a Collections Call Log
Keep a detailed list of every call from creditors. By tracking the details of your calls, you may be building a case for the collections company to have to pay you. Each entry should list:
- Name of the caller
- Collections company they represent
- Debt they are trying to collect
- Any balance or amount they say is owed
- Anything done that breaks the rules described above
Contact the Original Lender Asking Which Debt Collections Companies They Use
If you think that there is more than one company trying to collect on a debt, or believe that a false debt collector is trying to scam you, contact the original bank, lender, or credit card company. Ask what debt collections company your account has been assigned to. Don’t make payment arrangements or promises during this call. Just gather information.
Send Letters Telling the Debt Collectors to Stop
Exercise your right to control when and how debt collection calls happen. Send letters telling them not to contact you, that you cannot receive calls at work, and referring them to your attorney. Always keep copies of those letters for yourself.
Talk to a Consumer Protection Attorney
Most importantly, don’t do this alone. You don’t have to be the one fielding the collections calls day and night. At The Liblang Law Firm, PC, our consumer protection attorneys have been fighting back against collections harassment for more than 30 years. We can help you stop the calls, assert your rights, and settle your debts. If creditors are harassing you, contact The Liblang Law Firm, PC, for a consultation today.